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~ Kodak ~
Kodak first began selling cameras in 1888! Their marketing tag line was: "you press the button, we do the rest," and from that moment, Kodak certainly led the way in Camera production and products.
The advent of the Digital camera did see Kodak struggle to keep up not only with the times, but also lose out on their printing side. However in recent years, Kodak has fought back somewhat and still offers a good range of items in the digital camera market.
On review today is the Kodak Easyshare Z8612 IS 8 MP camera. I am not a 'photographer' and so my review won't necessarily have the more technical stuff explained - simply because I can't, but I hope it will give an insight into my experience with this.
~ The camera in general ~
Okay, this isn't the prettiest beast on the market, but then I didn't want pink, or blue, or sparkly. I wanted good photography, but still with a Point and Shot digital camera on a fairly limited budget. Looking around, I eventually narrowed my choices down to the Kodak and the Fujifilm Finepix S5800. Both have very similar specifications, and both are currently under £100 from Argos (December 2008).
We effectively wanted something with at least 8MP (Mega pixels), a good zoom - which has to be optical to keep your quality, digital zooms lose quality - and if possible a good movie mode - and finally, within a pretty tight budget. As mentioned, both these cameras had these attributes.
I then did some trawling around local camera shops and managed to find both cameras available to test out at different places. It was after this try out, it was decided to go with the Kodak rather than the Fuji.
~ So initial impressions ~
As I've said, the Kodak isn't the prettiest beast on the market. It's black, and fairly 'square' to look at, but then again so was the Fuji. Both have lens that protrude more than some other models of camera, but again I knew that I was going to have to compromise and lose a little of the flexibility that a smaller camera can offer in terms of just fitting in to your pocket. It doesn't mean the Kodak doesn't fit a pocket, but its generally not your trousers, but your coat pocket! So if being able to carry the camera around discreetly is important, then this camera isn't one to look at.
Holding the camera is also a vital consideration I have to make. I suffer with arthritis, so weight and also the camera design while holding it were also important considerations. Again, there was little difference between the two, but overall I felt the Kodak was just that little lighter (I've no idea what the official weights are) and more importantly it felt more comfortable in my grip. After about five minutes, the Fuji began to make my hand ache quite badly - Now I know a lot of consumers are not going to even think twice about this aspect of buying a camera, but I wanted to include this into my review anyway because it might still be useful for some to know.
Overall, the camera feels solidly built, and none of the buttons or movement of the lens feel cheap, despite its price.
Before use, we did ensure we had a SD Media card to plug in, although it has a very small amount of internal memory, unless you really drop the mega pixel settings, this isn't going to be anything like enough, and would only give a few pictures at a time. You can also use a SDHC card if you want to, particularly if you use the Video mode on the camera. Again I don't know the full technical detail so I'm afraid that is the sum total of my knowledge about the cards!
~ Switching on and ready to go ~
The camera comes supplied with a standard lithium battery. You can use Li-ion rechargeable batteries, and we bought the Kodak version (CRV3) plus charger for less than £15-00 on Ebay. It meant we also had a spare CRV3 as part of the purchase, so we've always got a battery charged and ready to use.
The switching on and off of this camera is very easy to work out. I had my first pictures taken without having to look once at the manual, which shows if you're used to a digital camera, a lot of its initial use is very instinctive, and this is a huge plus point in its favour in my opinion.
However, the pop up flash does 'pop' up each time you turn the camera on. Now I personally don't find it a nuisance, but I imagine that some people might. The reason I think they have this pop up is because the flash doesn't automatically appear when it is needed - you have to push the 'on' switch to get the flash to work if you have pushed it back down again - so by doing it automatically, its just to make sure you have the flash if needed.
Other than that, it's fairly quick to get itself set up and ready to use. Again, I can only compare this to our older digital camera (Sony Cybershot), plus my parents and sisters own digital cameras, and the Fuji I tested at the time, but I didn't think it was any slower than any camera I've used previously.
The rear viewer is nice and clear, and you get a good-sized area to see your image through. Now again, this camera doesn't have a viewfinder, and so some people might consider that a point against it, personally I've not used the viewfinder in the 3 years we've had our old camera once - So I doubt it would be an issue for us, but I guess in very bright sunlight conditions it might cause a problem with reflection on the screen.
~ Point and Press ~
As I've said, I'm not a photographer, so while I can use this camera in various manual modes, I'm just going to settle for the Auto setting it offers. Later, once I get more used to it, I might dabble with the settings a little more - but it isn't why we bought the camera. Therefore, as a point and press it seems to work exceptionally well. Its picked up each setting I've thrown at it without incident so far, and done so quickly. From Macro to Landscape, it didn't hesitate getting its settings sorted, and so far I've been extremely impressed with it all.
As I've said, I had managed to get pictures without even having to look at the manual, and once home we did some more practice shots with it - and apart from one uncertainty (how to view your pictures back) everything else was done without having to look at the manual that is supplied with it - so that really does put some points in its favour in my book.
The manual is pretty hefty, but in reality its because its supplied with a half dozen or more languages all in one place. The English portion of the manual is only a few pages - A fraction of the overall size. While I can understand Kodak wanting to have a 'standard' box that they can effectively ship wherever they want to in these language zones, I'm afraid I do object to the waste of paper, print etc to send out a manual that is in reality only relevant on a few pages to each customer.
The camera also comes with its own disc of Kodak Software, but since we use an external SD Card, and plug that straight in, I've yet to upload anything off the CD to use, so I can't comment about that aspect.
It also can be used within the Kodak Easyshare system - but again since this isn't something I'm ever likely to use, I can't comment about that aspect of the camera.
~ The pictures ~
First of all, I'm been extremely impressed with the quality of the pictures we've had from the camera. The Zoom capabilities are superb for this sort of camera and that has particularly impressed. Often when you use a zoom feature on a camera you get a lot of blurring, but the image stabiliser system seems to really stop a lot of that, and so far we've not used it on the tripod at all on Zoom setting. There will be occasions when that will be advisable, but again this seems to be excellent at allowing you just to point zoom and press without real picture quality loss.
You can also use its focus feature, which gives you a green line when its found the focus you need, but again if we've needed to take a picture quickly (and so haven't had time for the focus finder to be used) we've noticed no real loss of picture quality.
Colours seem far better than I imagined they would and again, I've not noticed any discernable differences in different light conditions. We've kept the settings at the highest mega pixels on offer, and this has enabled us to crop down photos, without losing quality.
Edit: I also forgot to mention you have the option of Panoramic mode using 3 shots that "stitch" together. I've tried it once, and there is no real distortion showing, again something I've seen in other cameras with this feature. Great for those landscape wide angle shots.
~ Final thoughts ~
This camera isn't without its faults, particularly the flash popping up when you turn it on. Also the lack of a viewfinder for some people might be frustrating. And while it comes with a lens cover, it isn't held in place that well - but again I guess that's another safety consideration, because it allows the cover to 'pop' off if you forget to remove it before switching the camera on, because your lens does move and if you've got the lens cap strapped to the body, it would hold it back!
But, despite these problems - I find they are small and irritating, and certainly don't detract from the picture quality and ease of use this camera gives. The zoom feature on this is very good indeed, and the video quality for a camera of this sort isn't bad either!
Overall, 4 out of 5 stars from me.
~ Finally, some technical information - taken from the Argos website Dec. 2008 ~
* Body material: Plastic.
* 8.1m pixels.
* 12 x optical zoom.
* 5 x digital zoom.
* 2.5in LCD screen.
* Digital Image stabilization.
* In-camera red eye fix.
* Face Detection.
* Anti blur optical.
* SD memory card compatible.
* 21Mb internal memory.
* Maximum ISO range: 1600.
* 16 scene modes.
* Pictbridge compatible.
* Accessories included in box - USB cables, lens cap, neck strap, Kodak EasyShare software, Getting Started Guide, Custom insert for optional Kodak EasyShare camera and printer docks.
* Lithium battery (AA), supplied.
* Weight 290g.
* Size (H)6.6, (W)10.4, (D)7cm.
Also my review on Ciao
This Kodak camera, the Z8612 IS,costs around £125. I did not have to buy it, I was sent it by the manufacturer to review.
It has a resolution of 8.1 megapixels. The lens is equivalent (35mm) to 36-432mm thanks to a 12x optical zoom range. The screen on the back is 2.5-inches and has a 230,000 dot resolution, so nice and crisp. It also has an optical image stabilizer. There is 21MB of internal memory, with extra added via an SD or SDHC memory card. It does all the normal things you would expect, like macro, VGA movies, self timer, red-eye reduction, exposure compensation. It has handy scene modes for taking sport, night, portrait (and many more) shots. It also has a a dial on the top to access smart scene, high ISO, P (program), A (aperture priority), S (shutter priority), M (manual), panorama (left-right, right-left ), video modes.
Now, onto handling. The Z8612 is about the size of a smallish compact. The only problem is that it doesn't know if it is a compact or mini-DSLR, as it has this large protruding lense sticking out the front. It looks nice, but means that you CANNOT stick this camera in your pocket. If you want a camera you can take anywhere, don't buy this. The actual size is 104 × 65.6 × 70.5mm and it weighs 290g, so not too heavy.
Let's get the other bad bits out of the way first. Turning the camera on is awful. The on switch is located on the back of the camera, it also doubles as a switch for turning the flash on... so everytime you turn on the camera the flash pops up and you have to push it down again. Second bad thing, the lens cap is not integrated, so forgot to take it off, turn the camera on and the plastic cover pops off onto the floor. Last one now, I promise. The battery is a Kodak CR3V non-rechargeable. This is bad, it should come with a charger and suitable battery. Otherwise, as I did, I got through two charges on a pair of AA batteries to do the review.
Good things now. The Schneider 12x lens is brilliant, this is good glass. It gives a really nice range too, ideal for zooming in on far away objects. The macro is excellent. The images produced are very very nice too. Though they are only just over 8 megapixels, they do not contain a lot of noise and are nicely coloured. Using the flash is also good, it has a nice long range and lit up some of my photos at over 8 metres. Using Smartmode, the Kodak tries to decide what sort of photo you are taking and most of the time it works. If I tried to take a close up of a flower, sure enough it switched to macro, well done little camera. I did not test the movie mode, so cannot comment.
*UPDATE* Having just tried to take some photos on a country walk. The lack of viewfinder is a bad exclusion. The screen is nice, bright and colourful, but the sunny day made it virtually impossible to see. Unless of course I held the camera with one hand and shielded the screen with the other... hardly ideal.
The battery and shape of this Z8612 lets it down in my book, but that said it does deliver good images. If you don't mind the extra size, go to your local camera shop and try it out, you will be pleased with the results.